He states, however, that it is a pearly, nacreous shell, resembling
that of the ordinary pearl-oyster. In these masks are also other
shells, among them a red shell, probably a spondylus, almost as red as
coral. The mother-of-pearl is of special interest as it is quite
possible that the shell itself was known, and it may be that pearls
also formed part of a commerce that existed between the coast and the
are informed by Mr. E. P. Dieseldorf, of Coban, Republic of Guatemala,
that he has never observed pearls in the pre-Columbian graves in
Guatemala; he had, however, frequently found marine shells, whole, and
elaborated in connection with jadeite beads.
a personal communication, Mr. Thomas Gann, of Yucatan, states that, in
excavating a mound at San Antonio, near the mouth of the Rio Hondo, in
Yucatan, he uncovered a small stone cyst or chamber, containing two
perforated, pear-like ornaments of considerable size, together with
portions of a human skeleton, painted pottery, etc. He also states that
ornaments such as beads, gorgets, and ear-pendants, made from the
pearly shell of both the oyster and the conch, are of common occurrence
in many sepulchral mounds in British Honduras and in Yucatan, and he
notes the fact that pink conch pearls are found in considerable numbers
at the present day along the coast of British Honduras. There is no
especial fishing for pearls, and they are found only incidentally in
conchs which have been gathered for food. These pearls are sold by
fishermen in Balize at prices varying from two or three dollars to
twenty or thirty apiece. In size they range from that of a large pin's
head to that of a small pea.
Marie Robinson Wright informs us that she has never found pearls in the
Bolivian graves, although they are quite plentiful in Bolivia to-day,
and hundreds of them are offered in the markets. The pretty girls wear
them as earrings and in their topos.
is no doubt that pearls existed long before the advent of man, both in
the fresh-water and in the marine form. This is more clearly evidenced
by Sir Charles Lyell, who calls attention to the fact that the
fresh-water mussel (Unto litt oralis Gray), formerly found in
abundance at Grays Thurrock, Essex, no longer exists in England, but
occurs in France, showing that not only had this mollusk been unseen by
any Englishman, but that the form had become extinct in an entire
country. Thus, both the pearl shell of the ocean and the pearl-mussel
of the river, for many centuries produced pearls, which passed away
with the shell itself.
great number of fossil Unios were collected by Barnum Brown from the
Laramie clays, 130 miles northwest of Miles City, Montana.